What started in the walls of the Parliament Building earlier this week, has become a regional rally for better working conditions for junior doctors.
Senator Dr Crystal Haynes during the debates on the Appropriate Bill, 2023 on Tuesday, March 21, spoke of the “insane hours” junior doctors at the state-owned Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) were working, with some doctors working 30-hour shifts.
As she called on Government to regulate working hours and end long work days, Dr Haynes highlighted that the long shifts came at the cost of possible medical errors.
“I really never agreed with the idea of a doctor working these insane hours. Somebody said they didn’t sleep for 48 hours, [and] that is very, very normal for doctors – both at intern level, [and] consultant level. You work all day on the wards, you spend the night in casualty, in the ER dealing with emergencies…and then you continue to work into the next day. That is something that is threat, not just for patient safety but for the personal safety of our healthcare providers.”
“There was a study that said that working for more than 17 hours basically creates an issue where you are operating as if your blood alcohol level is 0.05 per cent. That is a level where you would not be able to operate machinery, a level where you shouldn’t be operating motor vehicles and here, we have people who are working more than 17 hours doing surgery.
“We know a lot of the work that doctors and surgeons do requires a great amount of dexterity and concentration, and I would personally appeal to the powers that be to consider putting more junior doctor posts in place so we can finally do away with this system,” Dr Hayne said in the Upper House.
Her remarks, ignited a fiery debate about the deteriorating physical and mental health of junior doctors not only in Barbados but across the Caribbean. Many questioned why this practice has continued for so long.
In response to the rally, Loop understands that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has scheduled a closed door meeting with junior doctors on Monday, March 27, to listen to their grievances.
However, several took to social media to share their personal experiences and also of friends and family. What was most shocking was the amount of persons falling asleep behind the wheel and getting into accidents after working a long shift.
“Falling asleep at the wheel is an induction to healthcare here. Driving home post call is equivalent to driving home flat out drunk. Adding to this, you have to basically eat when or if you can because there’s no allotted break. It ain’t fair out here.”
“I see these doctors every single day…their mental state is out of whack, some are underweight from poor eating, others overweight and gaining weight due to poor eating. I know of one doctor who fell asleep after a shift and crashed. great job @senator crystal.”
“Yup. Crashed my car (fender bender fortunately) in front of QEH when I was a Senior Registrar. Fell asleep at the wheel post call. The struggle life is unnecessary.”
“My most frightening experience during internship was falling asleep at the wheel on my way home post-call. Luckily, I was in traffic and I had dozed off only for a few seconds, otherwise the ending would have been much different. This heinous system must come to an end.”
“I’ve worked 72 hrs, straight one time. The 36hr work shifts into normal work days are normal. Post calls into weekend, post calls into theatre, absolutely barbaric and disgusting. How are we supposed to learn and grow, when instead we’re fighting for our lives in a f**king job”
“My sister is a doctor, and I remember in her junior years, opening the front door one morning and found her half in, half out the car fully asleep. We had no idea how long she’d been there just grateful she made it home.”
“Didn’t understand the effects of these abnormal work hours until I left a call during internship at 2 am that was supposed to finish at midnight and I kept drifting asleep driving home. I still remember my eyes flashing open every time my tyres graze the grass on the roadside.”
Commenters expressed that they wanted more politicians to speak up, as this was a crisis that was extended beyond the Caribbean region.
“This is something that I have and will continue to advocate for!!! We need more regulation on the amount of hours doctors work!! I would love to see Grenada and the rest of the Caribbean make this change.”
Many lauded Dr Haynes for leading the discussion, as one individual said:
“Barbados has some strong women who don’t mind talking the things!”